Holy Week: Meditation 2

Why this waste? Matt 26:8

There is a great story told in Matthew, Mark and John’s Gospels of a woman coming and anointing the feet of Jesus with perfume. The cost of the perfume is great. A year’s wages goes on this gift.

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper,a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. (NIV Mat 26:6-13)

The disciples see the poor around them. They see that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Surely, it was a waste.

Surely, its better to help someone than to have a luxury wasted.

But Jesus is having none of it

She has done a beautiful thing

A beautiful thing. Jesus calls what she does a beautiful thing. I love that translation.

All too often we are given a choice between a plain utilitarian option and a seemingly extravagant beautiful thing.

And all too often we are made to feel guilty of wanting something beautiful. It is always compared to having something less. Something plainer. Something utilitarian.

The cry goes up continually “Why this waste – the money could be spent on hospitals, it could be spent on schools, it could be spent on the poor.”

I think that Jesus recognises several things here.

Firstly, he is affirming the woman’s spontaneous and extravagant devotion to him.
So much better than planned for parsimony.
A cold hearted approach to worship is just not possible.

Secondly, a beautiful or noble act doesn’t count the cost.
It desires to be generous.
It desires to be a bit over the top.
This woman desired to show her extravagant devotion to Jesus.
She desired to give him her best.

Thirdly, Jesus affirms that we will always have the poor with us.
You could take this to mean that we will never eradicate poverty.
Jim Wallis points to a more profound meaning.
He points out that the church is always called to work with the poor.
It is not an either/ or this.
It’s a both/and

Jesus saw that its all too easy to be devoted to a cause that overlooks people. That sees people as statistics or numbers to be played around with. People as abstracts. Loving humanity and disliking the person in front of you.

This woman.

Her generosity.

Her nobility of heart.

We are called to extravagant devotion to Jesus and this very devotion will drive us to work with the poor.

Not out of guilt.

Not because we are more interested to the cause of alleviating poverty than in people themselves

But because our devotion to Jesus will always lead us to seeing the humanity of the poor.

Because devotion to Jesus will mean that we cannot pass by on the other side.

Because devotion to Jesus means that we can never see people as object.

Rather our devotion to Jesus will help us see everyone as beloved by God
As worthy of respect and care

Including this woman in front of us.

Vallotton Annie Vallotton - The woman anointing Jesus' feetOther Holy Week Meditations:

Holy Week: Meditation 1

Holy Week; Meditation 3

Holy Week; Meditation 4

Holy Week: Meditation 5

Good Friday Holy Week: Meditation 6

Holy Week Holy Saturday: Meditation 7

Holy Week 2012 Meditation series


4 comments on “Holy Week: Meditation 2

  1. Geoff C
    April 18, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    You can’t help but wonder – what was the woman thinking?
    Was she aware of who he was, who he really was?
    Was she just being kind and generous to someone important.
    What was her motive for the extravagence?

  2. Esther Somerson
    April 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Many believe it to have been Mary of Magdala. The most expensive and spontaneous act of love for her Christ could never repay the riches He had bestowed upon her in the depths of misery from which He had lifted her. As my minister said yesterday – ‘remember He descended into Hell and that cross tells us He descends into our hell whatever that might be’….Mary knew her Master so well.

  3. Jean
    April 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    What a contrast between the extravagant gesture of this woman, (never better illustrated than by the simple line drawings of the Good News Bible) and the inability of the disciples to stay awake for “just one hour.” Question. How to move along the scale – in the direction of extravagance when we have created a society that makes it hard to slow down, let alone stop?

  4. Debbie Howard
    April 18, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    I believe there’s another message not directly addressed by the author of this post. Could Jesus be saying, “There’s enough to go around?” or “In your efforts of ministering to the poor don’t forget, nor neglect, devotion to HIM?”

    We will always have the poor. There will always be times of lack. Recent earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters convince us of this. The question to ponder is this, “Are we consumed with the needs of ministering to the poor that we can’t recognize that the Lamb of God is in our midst?

    There’s no question who this woman is (Jn 11:2) nor the purpose for which she did this. Jesus makes it clear in the text.

    Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. (Jn 12:7)

    Jesus is clearly stating another profound truth. Ministry is not just for those who are in need of ministry but to the minister as well.

    In purely accounting terminology Jesus made it clear, this expense, although poured out, in what appears to be a spontaneous fashion, was actually in the budget, “she hath kept this…” Therefore, it has taken nothing away from the poor, but is a necessary expenditure for the One’s whose ultimate sacrifice warrants the expenditure.

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